Teacher as Advocate: Site Comparisons

Education reform comes in many different shapes, colors, patterns, creeds, charters, designations, and clusters. Everyone claims they have the answer to some problem in the education system, so I decided to evaluate two of these groups and see what they are proposing to do in the fight to improve our education system.

Site #1-Students First. Their mission-“StudentsFirst is a nonprofit organization fighting for one purpose: to make sure every student in America has access to great schools and great teachers. We are driven by the belief that every child—regardless of background—can succeed if put in the right school environment. And every day we work to build an education system that makes this possible.”

This site is dedicated to raising awareness about the shortcomings in our education system, where we have gone wrong, and how we can fix these issues. They call for communities to evaluate their schools, see what needs to be reformed, and then go about doing so. This is a very grassroots approach to reform, a concept that has not necessarily been considered in the past. They point out the main problem lies the the fact that truly good resources (good teachers, well-equipped classrooms, technology, textbooks, etc) are not readily available to lower-income students. This is creating a major gap in education equity.

They propose a very simple two-step plan. A) Have great teachers. B) Have great schools. This is simple in theory, but incredibly difficult in practice. Having a staff of truly amazing teachers is costly, hard to put together, and can be near impossible to create if the demographics are wrong. Attracting professionals to a low-income area is not easy, especially when offering incentives is impossible for low-budget schools. This also calls for huge reform of the preparation programs for preservice teachers. How do we regulate this? How do we instruct preservice teachers on what actually happens in a classroom? How do we provide the necessary support and resources for teachers in struggling schools with limited financial support? Granted, with good teachers, the school will naturally become better. However, getting there is quite a struggle.

Site #2- Teach For America. Their mission-“Our mission is to enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.”

This group recruits individuals through a rigorous application process to work for two years with love-income students. These corps members go into communities, work with students, parents, and families as well as other teachers, and help create a more learning-centric environment. These are teachers who are giving their time and resources to help students. They are passionate about what they do and are willing to do the dirty work when it comes to reform. This kind of recruitment allows more those who genuinely want to get involved to do so. My concern is about the preparation courses for the recruits. This would have to be very rigorous, multidimensional, and be accessible for different levels of educators. Training would need to make the recruits practically experts in the field. Is that even feasible?

Corps members are also encouraged to learn from their students. This mutual exchange of information is a doorway that makes reform more accessible to the community. If students feel like their voices are being heard, they are more likely to speak out. This also gives teachers a better feel of where students are struggling, as they are hearing it from the students themselves. This also gives the community the power to voice their own concerns. A reform is only successful if it is tailored to the community in which it is centered. This also prevents the community from closing off to reform that may seem very  regimented. Once again, this is only possible with the best of the best. How can it be ensured that recruits are the best and are willing to handle such a huge task?

Both of these sites provide strong insight into how we can begin to fix our education system. However, they both lack a solid foundation. I suppose they are trying and that is a lot more than can be said for a lot in our society. We are all caught up in this struggle to fix a broken system. Any stab in the dark can help. The only thing we can do is start small, in our own classrooms with our students, our fellow teachers, our individual school, and grow from there. The only practical solution is to start small and grow from there.



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